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Premier Ford’s approach to sustainability: A call to social consciousness

 

On June 7, the province of Ontario held its provincial election which saw Kathleen Wynne lose to Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford. The Ontario Progressive Conservatives also managed to win a majority government. With the pendulum swinging from left to right in Ontario, it has left many people wondering how big the changes are going to be under Ford. While the issues are far ranging, the focus here is going to be on Premier Ford’s approach to sustainability. The earth is getting hotter every year with more and more extreme weather events. That is why sustainability and environmental protection are such a vital topic. Premier Ford has already axed a number of green programs. If there was any doubt before the election about Ford’s approach to the environment and sustainability, there isn’t now: the proof is in the actions he has already taken.

Let’s rewind to the Harper government and their approach to science. To say that there was a contentious relationship between the two would be an understatement. Under Prime Minister Harper, not only was funding to scientific research cut, but scientists were muzzled from reporting their findings supporting climate change and steps to prevent it. How relevant is scientific data in the face of massive development proposals that stand to make a few people very rich? Not very relevant to Harper and the PC. This highlights the PC Party’s willingness to ignore science and data in the face of profit. When Doug Ford was Toronto city council and his brother Rob Ford mayor, the dynamic duo was very outspoken about their preference for cars over bikes. After all, oil companies can only make money off of cars, not bikes.

During his campaign for Premier, Doug Ford made it obvious that environmental protection is not a priority. At one point, he proposed opening up Ontario’s protected green belt to developers, something he almost immediately flip-flopped on due to public backlash. That is a disturbing look into Ford’s mind and priorities: profit over sustainability. Of course, there was also the usual rhetoric about slashing gas prices, which is to be expected of Ford and the PC Party. The right wing refuses to give up their fossil fuels. Ford was also outspoken about wanting to get rid of the cap and trade program that has provided companies a financial incentive to reduce their carbon emissions. Because preserving the earth for future generations is not a good enough reason. Add to this, his general lack of platform in the final days of his campaign especially regarding environmental policy.

Over two months have passed since Ford was sworn in as Premier of Ontario and he is already making big waves. He has scrapped the GreenOn initiative. The program was meant to encourage people with financial rebates to make their homes more environmentally friendly. Gone already is the cap and trade program. Even though his actions do imply he is waging a war against green initiatives, there is hope and progress. The Trudeau government, which is dedicated to green causes, has poured money into research aimed to understand and mitigate climate change. This includes monitoring and protecting the oceans and creating greener technologies. So even though the Ontario government has taken steps backwards, the federal government is light years ahead of the previous Conservative government.

Even though the new provincial government is a far cry from what an environmentally conscious person would want in power, private citizens can make their voice heard keeping the public discussion open on social media channels and contributing to the reduction of carbon footprint. Driving a car in Toronto is already an unpleasant experience; therefore, it’s much easier to take the TTC or ride a bike. Just imagine every time you take your bike or the public transit you are sticking it to Doug Ford. Every time the premier slashes another green policy or implements a destructive one, citizens have to respond and take advantage of the fact that Canada is a country where the people can express their views. When the government fails to provide and protect, it falls onto the citizens to enact positive change.

The buck starts here!

 

Many People may have complained about the lack of details in Doug Ford’s campaign platform; however, one thing is certain, Doug Ford is planning to keep his promises. One of the key promises of his election campaign, “buck-a-beer” will be kept starting August 27 just before Labour Day weekend. The plan is to lower the minimum price of a can or a bottle of beer with an alcohol volume below 5.6 percent to $1 from $1.25. The announcement was made this week, conveniently before Civic Holiday weekend when Premier Ford didn’t forget to wish everyone a “responsible” long weekend “with your beverage of choice”. Being responsible does not always go hand in hand with alcohol. A spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) who fear cheaper beer sends the wrong message, stated that “increased consumption can in turn lead to increase alcohol related problems, including impaired driving.”

Of course, the buck-a-beer approach is not new to Ontario. In 2008, the Liberal government scraped it to increase the minimum price claiming “social responsibility”. With the costs of making beer going up and an increase in the provincial and federal taxes, brewers could not afford to sell their product at the minimum price.

A few questions sprung to mind as I heard the news. Is a 25-cent reduction significant to beer aficionados? How is it even possible to produce good quality beer at a cheaper cost? Why show so much care for consumers’ pockets and none for the brewers who will have to somehow lower production costs while still keeping the potion potable? Premier Ford claims that “for too long beer consumers have been forced to pay inflated prices for beer in order to increase the profits of big corporations. We’re going to allow price competition for beer and this will save consumers money.” He also claims that buck-a-beer will increase the competition in the beer market. Maybe the program will appeal to those brewers that are willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of more sales. Whereas small brewers have already stated that they will not embrace the plan as too costly, large companies will benefit from the program as with a wide range of products they will be able to make a cheaper one at the minimum price and still make a bit of profit.

The Government has stated that this initiative will not cost taxpayers anything; it is all on the brewers’ shoulders to carry the weight of the price reduction. The plan is totally voluntary and to participating brewers, the Ontario government will offer “non-financial incentives” such as prime spots in LCBO stores, free ads in flyers and magazine among the rewards. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park, said that these incentives will come at a cost to the province as these LCBO promotions “have monetary value”.

What’s more, the buck-a-beer benefit to the people sits in stark contrast with the news of the scraping of the basic income project. Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod stated that it is too expensive. The basic income pilot started in 2017 and was being tested over a period of three years to help make a difference in the lives of people on low income. Unlike the buck-a-beer plan, the promise that Ford made to support people on basic incomes is not being kept.

Doug Ford receives backlash for plan to cut city council

After Premier Doug Ford announced that he would be introducing a bill to slash Toronto’s city council from 47 members to 25, NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Mayor John Tory are criticizing the decision.

On Monday Ford introduced the Better Local Government Act at the provincial legislature. The plan would be to cut city council nearly in half, a move that brought forth criticism from city council, John Tory, and opposing leader Andrea Horwath.

The Premier’s office released further information last Friday on why they’re choosing to introduce such a controversial bill. “At 44 seats, growing to 47 seats, Toronto City Council has become increasingly dysfunctional and inefficient through a combination of entrenched incumbency and established special interests,” they wrote. A streamlined Toronto City Council would empower Toronto’s mayor and help ensure that Toronto taxpayers can count on an efficient and effective municipal government.” They added that the bill could help save Toronto taxpayers over $25.5 million over the next four years but didn’t provide any specifics.

The bill will also extend the nomination period for city council candidates to September 14, 2018, though the deadline for Mayor would remain the same.

Mayor John Tory told reporters that the bill was “absolutely not right” to introduce without consulting with Torontonians. “I’m angry at the process because I think it is disrespectful of the people, most of all, in that I think people, when there’s a major change being made to their civic democracy, deserve to be consulted in one way, shape or form,” he said. “It wasn’t put on the basis that he was planning to do it. He said that he’s talked about it before and I actually sort of dismissed it on the basis of saying, ‘Well, that’s not something that could be done. We’re in the middle of an election campaign,’” he added. “The matter dropped at that stage because I didn’t have the sense he was pursuing it, either.”

Tory also called for a referendum, which was approved by city council. “I will continue to advocate that the province pushes the pause button on this process and let the municipal election already underway proceed,” he added in a Twitter thread on July 30.

Ford received further criticism from opposing leader Andrea Horwath, who released a statement about the bill, saying that he didn’t announce these plans on the campaign trail or consult people. “It’s clear that Mr. Ford wants a smaller number of councillors to have more power, fewer checks and balances, and less accountability. This is obviously a move to make it easier for the premier to control Toronto City Hall. The actions we hear Mr. Ford plans to take not only mean less accountability and transparency at City Hall, but that each Torontonian will have less help and less access to their city councillor,” she said.

Horwath also tweeted about the bill, calling it something Ford “cooked up in a backroom.”

Ford is defending his decision at City Hall and on social media since July 27. “I promised to reduce the size and cost of government, and end the culture of waste and mismanagement. More politicians are not the answer. These changes will dramatically improve the decision making process, and help restore accountability and trust in local governments,” he wrote on Friday.

Ford posted a video of him yesterday addressing the concerns of his bill. “We’re gonna create jobs. We’re gonna create transit. We’re gonna fix the infrastructure and we’re gonna take care of the billion dollars backlogged of housing. People are sleeping on the streets cause too much money’s going to politicians,” he said. He accompanied the 0: 15-second clip with a tweet saying, “We’re going to make government work for the people. We can’t allow political gridlock and dysfunction at City Hall to keep delaying progress on critical issues. By streamlining City Council, we will help Toronto move forward on transit, infrastructure and housing.”

Progress Toronto, an advocacy group supporting democracy, started a petition to stop Ford’s bill called “Stop Ford’s takeover of Toronto politics.” They wrote that Ford is “abusing his power as premier and he is messing with our political system in the middle of an election to try to control Toronto City Hall from Queen’s Park.”

Ford’s sex-ed decision will hurt students

So, Ford officially nixed Ontario’s sexual education curriculum so he could appease pro-life, Christian groups and conservative parents who don’t want children to know about basic things. Big surprise.

When Ford was discussing his idiotic plans for the city on the campaign trail I already knew that I wasn’t going to vote for him. He was too quick to yank decisions out of thin air that only placated a small amount of misinformed, bigoted people. It’s obvious that this is what the next four years will look like now that he’s literally setting the province back 20 years.

In case you missed it, Ford announced on July 11 that he would be reverting the Liberal party’s curriculum and replacing it with the 1998 version. The reason for this was essentially so he could consult with parents on what they wanted their kids to learn at home versus the classroom.

There are many problems with this decision. The 1998 curriculum didn’t include things that matter today like transgender people, same-sex marriage, consent, masturbation, homophobia, online bullying, and sexting. Back then these things were pretty much unheard of, so it wasn’t a big deal to sweep them under the rug.

But when students started entering a technology-driven society, things drastically changed. Kids were getting more open about their sex lives, sending photos to their partners, and had a new platform to bully other kids into suicide or changing schools. The internet is great for a lot of things, but it’s also a dangerous aid to children who weren’t educated in how to behave or protect themselves.

For those parents or conservatives out there who think this is a good move, let me tell you something. I went to high school in a Catholic school. Learning about Jesus for four years when you’re an atheist was already hell enough (please control your applause at these puns), but my class learned nothing about sex. Nothing. The teacher spent half a class once talking about how girls have a vagina and boys have a penis, everyone needs to refrain from having sex until couples were in love, and that everyone has to be safe. The end. But, what does safe mean? Ah, yes, my Catholic high school wanted to cover their butts by saying they technically told students to be safe, but they worked around it by not showing students what that meant. Kids in my school were never taught how to put on condoms or what diseases could be contracted through unprotected sex. This kind of “education” led to the school shutting down hallways because students were having sex too often in them and grade-10 girls walking around the cafeteria pregnant. So, maybe education is a good thing?

Though, it’s not just the Catholic groups out there who wanted Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum repealed. Enter Campaign Life Coalition. Let me stop sighing long enough to express my distaste in their backward views. They published an article talking about graphic lessons on body parts. Words like “penis” (oh no!), “vagina” (the horror!), “testicles” (the travesty!), and “vulva” (sound the alarm!) were all present.

I think I can understand where they were coming from. They don’t want little kids in grade one learning about their genitals because they’re much too young and need to be making macaroni art. However, kids get curious. It’s not unheard of for children that young to start exploring with other kids or even their own siblings. Look at the whole Lena Dunham debacle that happened a few years ago. Tons of people were quick to call her disgusting and a rapist, whereas several therapists actually stated that they didn’t think Dunham abused her sister at all. What happened was a case of curious children who weren’t properly educated by their parents or in schools.

It’s not just the genitals thing that irks me. It’s how the Coalition’s article also demonized same-sex households. A line from their article on grade 3 lessons reads: “Will normalize homosexual family structures and homosexual ‘marriage’ in the minds of 8-year-olds, without regard for the religious/moral beliefs of families.” What about the regard for the children coming from same-sex homes? That means they can be left out entirely so a homophobic agenda can continue being taught?

The article continues by saying, “It would be one thing to teach the fact that such alternative family structures exist, if the plan were to teach it at older ages, and if it were done in a way that respected the deeply held religious and moral beliefs of traditionally-principled families. However, the Kathleen Wynne government will certainly take an activist approach to these lessons and show no respect nor tolerance for traditionally-principled families.” Correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like you’re upset that “traditional” homophobic, belittling views won’t see the light of day. Forgive me for not shedding tears.

I already knew that Ford promising to rid the new curriculum was going to be trouble. I believed him, and if you want to applaud him for keeping true to his promises then I guess I can give him that as well. I can’t deny that he did what he said he would. It just turns out that what he did was stupid, damaging, ill-informed, and not half as big a win as he thinks.

Regardless of whether or not Ford or the conservative parents out there believe it, kids masturbate. They’re going to have sex. Girls will get their periods. Boys will ask girls to send photos of their breasts. Girls will ask for photos of a boy’s genitals. Your kids are going to experiment. They’re most likely going to have sex in high school and be curious as children, so the least you could do for them is keep them educated.